Athlete Sonia O’Sullivan is to travel from Australia to attend the unveiling of a lifesize sculpture dedicated to her in her Co Cork hometown later this month.
The bronze sculpture is the brainchild of Cobh Tourism which wanted to honour its most famous daughter in a running pose, designed to capture her determination.
The tourism body’s chairman Hendrick Verwey said he was delighted Sonia had agreed to attend the ceremony on September 20.
He said the location of the statue close to St Colman’s Cathedral would be very important. “As a tourism development organisation that works exhaustively to promote Cobh and all that it has to offer, we fully appreciate any statue taken in isolation is unlikely to attract a single visitor to Cobh.
“Nearly every visitor to Cobh will photograph this statue with our magnificent cathedral as its backdrop,” Mr Verwey said.
He said the story of Sonia and her track career, her tremendous successes, disappointments, and the trials and tribulations was a story that carried the people of Cobh and Ireland along with her for over a decade.
“It is a happy story and this statue will reflect that, celebrating a Cobh native who has been a tremendous ambassador not only for her sport but for her home town and Ireland,” he said.
Sonia will be joined by her husband, Australian running coach Nic Bideau, and their children Ciara, 16, and Sophie, 13,.
The statue cost €37,000 to design, commission, and install and it was made possible by a series of fundraisers and donations from several companies.
Mr Verwey said Cobh Tourism was delighted the immensely talented Cobh sculptor James McLoughlin was the successful artist to tender for the project and therefore so much of the funding was staying locally.
O’ Sullivan at the 1994 European Championships Helsinki
The athlete’s role of honour includes: 1991 World Student Games Sheffield 1500m gold; 1993 World Championships Stuttgart 1500m silver; 1994 European Championships Helsinki 3,000m gold; 1995 World Championships Gothenburg 5,000m gold.
The pinnacle of her career came at the 1998 European Championships in Budapest where she won gold in the 5,000m and 1,0000m.
Sonia also held the Irish national records for every distance from 800m right through to the half marathon at some point in her career.
On the previous day, September 19, the town will host a 5km road race in Sonia’s honour. It marks 20 years to the day that Sonia won the gold medal for the 5,000m at Gothenburg and more than 600 runners are expected to take part.
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